Proposed ban on ‘offensive attire’ sparks widespread debate in China

The Chinese public has voiced concerns over a proposed legal amendment which could penalise individuals for wearing attire deemed “detrimental to the spirit of the Chinese people and hurtful to their sentiments.”

Introduced earlier this month, the draft fails to specify which garments might be prohibited, though violations could lead to up to 15 days of detention and fines of up to 5,000 RMB (681 USD). This comes on the heels of various regulations concerning personal style, such as measures against “effeminate styles” among broadcast artists and a crackdown on tattoos. The proposed amendments also hint at restrictions on content perceived to undermine China’s national spirit.

Online, the response has been mixed, with concerns arising about the vague nature of the proposed text. Professor Tong Zhiwei of East China University of Political Science and Law as well as Professor Lao Dongyan from Beijing’s Tsinghua University have both expressed reservations. The former highlighted potential issues with arbitrary enforcement, while the latter voiced concerns about state overreach into individual clothing choices.

The discussion around the proposed amendments coincides with a time when clothing choices have taken on significant political connotations in China, especially those associated with traditional Japanese outfits. The Hanfu movement, promoting pre-Qing dynasty attire, has been seen as Chinese youth. Conversely, garments like kimonos, representing Japanese culture, have faced backlash due to rising nationalist sentiments.

Recent incidents, such as a Chinese anime fan being detained for wearing a kimono in 2022, have ignited debate on social platforms like Weibo. Users are now questioning how the new amendments, if passed, might affect those donning international or historically significant outfits. Many call for more clarity in the proposal, emphasising the importance of detailed guidelines.

While it is still unknown whether the newly proposed amendment will truly pass, China now finds itself in the heat of a debate concerning cultural preservation, nationalism, and freedom of expression.


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